Lehman Zeno “Jack” Little, age 85, a U.S. Air Force Veteran from Roanoke, VA, passed away on October 22, 2021. Jack was born in Portageville, MO and is predeceased by his mother, Pearl Stallings and his father, Andrew Jackson Little. He is survived by Mark Little (brother); Brenda and Carol (sisters); Natalie Sandridge Little (daughter); Lehman Andrew "Drew" Little (son) and his wife Grace Garvin Little and their children, Alyson, Amie, and Ian Little; Zachary Dewitt Little (son) and his son, Zachary Jaden Little; and Nathan Alan Little (son) and his wife Tiffany Ney-Barton Little and their children, Chayton, Jolon, and Carolyn Little; and many close friends.
Jack’s relationship with cars started when he was young. He began driving around 8 or 9 years old, driving with his dad on an ice truck, taking turns driving and throwing ice blocks. As a teenager growing up in the boot heel of Missouri, he drove his first car, a 1930s Chevy with an 8-cylinder engine and no mufflers to give it more horse power. Jack would drive across the Arkansas border, get the police to chase him, and race back to the Missouri border where they couldn’t follow. This was basically his first racing in the early ‘50s. He started tinkering with cars after that. At 17 or 18 years old, Jack joined the Air Force – stationed in the Philippines as a code breaker – where his brilliance was recognized, and he used that intelligence to serve his country, but his love for cars continued. He met friends in the USAF who were into cars and motorcycles and became really serious about building fast cars once he was stationed back in Washington D.C. and later moving Staunton, VA. In Staunton, Jack met and became friends with the legendary country music group, The Statler Brothers. During the years he made life-long friendships with Bill Russell, Keith Riley, and Pete Malone, all of whom figured prominently in stories he would tell for the rest of his life.
Jack had a couple Corvettes that he raced at the Spring Nationals drag racing competition in the early ‘60s. While at the Spring Nationals, he saw the 289 Cobra gap a 427 Corvette by 1/8 of a mile, and that was when he became a Ford fan. Within a year or two, he had a 64 Falcon with the same motor as that AC Cobra – the 271 horsepower, 289 V-8 – and was racing that at Starkey Raceway in Roanoke where the car was a fan favorite. In the mid-70s, Jack was also one of the early members of the Roanoke Valley Four Wheel Drive Association, where he raced a ’67 Ford Bronco, again with a 289 engine because he loved that engine and loved what he could do with it. He did some motor cross racing, but mostly what he liked was the one-eighth mile dirt-drag race.
Jack always had some kind of car or project he was working on. He took a Falcon that was wrecked in the back and a Ranchero that was wrecked in the front, cut them both in half, and put the halves together with a Mustang grill in it – just because he could – and called it “The Fang.” He put a 289 engine into a Falcon station wagon and made it accelerate faster than most big-block muscle cars. He was an excellent welder, and made a Festiva into a pickup truck, calling it the “Fesup,” winning him the “DJ Hayek Award” at Festiva
Madness in 2016. Jack’s whole life he worked with cars and did things with them that were unexpected and surprised people. Creativity manifests in a lot of different ways, and with Jack, it was with engines and body work, and he did a lot of unexpected things that people enjoyed and used. From a crazy Pinto that was unsafe at every speed, a Falcon that he could make stand up on its back end at the drag strip, and building the Fesup, to building custom engine stands that were used as a standard by Advanced Auto and building a custom racing trailer that was also adopted as a standard, people loved the cars he made and the designs that he brought to life.
Jack loved his family, racing, building cars, telling funny stories, laughing, and he loved being around people who loved those things.
Inurnment with military honors at Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin, Virginia will be announced later.
Online condolences may be offered to Jack’s family at www.rader-funeralhome.com/tributes/Lehman-Little.
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